JGP Tallinn Ladies Recap

Does Tallinn have one “L” or two?

Eh, whatever, I’m going with two. (I am beginning to see a pattern of not being able to spell the names of JGP host cities.) Spelling aside, this was a great event! Here’s what went down in Estonia (that I can spell!) this weekend.

1. Polina Tsurskaya

Lady Polina Tsurskaya, Grand Duchess of Triple Lutz, was nothing short of sublime in Tallinn.

(I looked it up, and “Grand Duchess” was, indeed, a real term for Russian royalty, so I went with that instead of the cooler-sounding “Empress Dowager,” which applies to several Asian countries but would not actually have been used in Russia. Ya learn something new every day!)

Both of her programs were nearly perfect (some missed levels and a small turnout were the closest thing to mistakes in either of her programs), and her vastly-improved artistry was even better than in Saransk. Polina has this regal quality about her this season that’s just incredible to watch: she’s cool, confident, poised, and never looks fazed. Everything from her facial expression and costumes to the way she transitions out of jumps (the high leg position on her landings is EVERYTHING) is just…well, queenly. Okay, so maybe I’m going overboard with the royalty metaphors, but why not? It only takes one viewing to get what I’m going for. This young lady just blows my mind.

2. Elizaveta Nugumanova 

It was probably apparent in my JGP Russia recap that I love me some Liza Nugumanova, so I was thrilled to see her improve on that performance here. Her “Malaguena” SP wasn’t as good as it was a few weeks ago -she underrotated her 3Lz-3T kind of obviously-but it’s an ingeniously-choreographed little gem and I loved her performance of it. The free skate was much stronger than her last one; underrotations were much less of an issue than they were at Saransk, and she landed everything well. With a silver and a bronze, Liza has a chance of getting into the final, but it’s by no means a guarantee. I’ll be crossing my fingers for an Alisa Fedichkina-in-2015 situation (refresher: Alisa made the final with a silver medal and a 4th place last year) to get her in.

3. Mako Yamashita 

I will admit it, Mako Yamashita doesn’t really excite me all that much. Her skating is kind of bland. But she has admirable qualities: her jumps are great-her technique is a lot like that of fellow Japanese juniors Kaori Sakamoto and Rin Nitaya, with tight air position, fast rotation, smooth landings and good height-and so far, she’s been pretty consistent. With two bronzes, she could make the JGP Final, although it’s an outside shot; it would require Gubanova and Konstantinova to bomb drastically at their second event next week. But stranger things have happened…

 

4. Rin Nitaya 

I was really critical of Rin when I recapped JGP France, but I won’t be this time: I don’t know if it was a change in her skating or just a change of opinion, but I really enjoyed her mature presentation. (That’s what happens when you stay down in juniors at 18: your maturity looks 85x more impressive than it would in seniors, simply because you’re competing against 13-year-olds.) Some of the jumps weren’t there in the free skate, and it looked like she was getting tired towards the end, but it was a solid effort and really enjoyable to watch. With a bronze and a 4th place, she’s probably not looking at a chance at a Final spot, but it would be nice if she ended up being an alternate. She brings something different with her maturity and smooth jumps, and I appreciate that.

5. Tessa Hong 

Okay, pause.

I have been waiting five weeks to be able to recap an American skater in one of these. It’s actually kind of sad, but Tessa was a deserving first-American-in-a-recap. She struggles with URs, but everything else about her skating is absolutely exquisite. Her musicality and interpretation are a cut above for a 14-year-old, and she has an elegance to her skating that I love. But, like with many other skaters, her URs were her undoing here. She landed all of her jumps in both programs, but many of them were UR’d obviously enough to see in real time (that’s when you know it’s bad). There were bright spots: both of her programs were beautiful, and she actually landed things, including 3-3s in both programs. But she needs to get a handle on her UR problem or she won’t be able to reach her full potential. Sigh…another beautiful, artistic skater with a UR problem. 😦

And, a 15th-place program you need to watch anyway because it’s awesome 

This program featured nothing harder than a 3Lo and wasn’t the cleanest, but in terms of entertainment, it was one of the best programs of the event (in my opinion). Danielle’s energy and excitement are really infectious, especially in the StSqs (which were both awesome). Just plain fun to watch.

Also, is it just me, or does she look like she could be Gracie Gold’s long-lost sister? I feel like they look very alike.

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JGP France Ladies Recap

The season has begun! (Finally!) The first major event of the season, Junior Grand Prix St. Gervais (abbreviated to “JGP France”), just concluded. Some disciplines were weaker than others (the dance field was wide open, and the men’s event was a splatfest), but the ladies event featured some fantastic skating that I can’t wait to recap!

 

1. Alina Zagitova, Russia — 194.37 (68.07/126.30) 

As is the case at virtually every event, Eteri Tutberidze’s latest wunderkind, Alina Zagitova, won this event by quite a bit. Her SP, set to “Samson and Delilah”, included a fantastic Rippon 3Lz-3T, 3Lo, and 2A (her axel technique is exponentially better than most of her coach’s other students), strong spins, and a fast, dynamic step sequence that I really enjoyed. Her free skate (random note-I’m pretty the costume is Evgenia Medvedeva’s 2013-14 SP dress) to “Don Quixote” was not quite as strong-a couple of jumps had slightly scratchy landings-but still excellent, with a very nice 3Lz-3Lo and 2A-3T. Again, I thought her StSq was very well-choreographed and enjoyable. Alina has some areas she could work on-in particular, her expression could be a bit less blank-but much of what she would need as a senior is already there. Either way, she’s clearly very talented-she ended up winning the competition with scores that would’ve won last year’s Junior Worlds. Because, y’know…that’s totally normal result in your first international competition. 

2. Kaori Sakamoto, JPN- 178.86 (64.12/114.74)

Kaori had a pretty good competition here, with two near-clean programs. Her SP, a fun, energetic program to “The Artist,”  featured a 3F-3T, 3Lo, and 2A. She’s improved a lot as a performer over the summer: she used to skate a little bit blank-faced but this performance was really fun and engaging. Her FS isn’t my favorite – it’s set to music that kind of bores me (something called “The Color Purple”) and I find the choreography a little generic – but she turned in some strong elements. She didn’t get a planned 3T onto her opening 3F-3T, but made it up later in the program with two 2A-3Ts. Her biggest mistake other than that was an edge call-not perfect, but overall a great competition for Kaori.

3. Rin Nitaya, JPN — 175.01 (60.94/114.07) 

I vaguely remember seeing Rin last season and thinking she was kind of “meh,” so I wasn’t expecting much here. Suffice to say it that she exceeded my expectations! Rin skated a clean short and a near-clean long (her only mistake was a popped axel) to place 3rd. She landed an excellent 3Lz-3T, 3Lo, and 2A in her “Red Violin” short program, and although I found her expression a bit nonexistent bland, she delivered the technical content and was duly rewarded. In the free skate, she utilized what I call the Satoko Layout: two 2A-3Ts in the second half instead of a 3-3. I really enjoy watching her jump: unlike most juniors, her landings are dang solid and smooth as butter. No scratchiness or turnout, ever-which I love, considering how rare it’s becoming. She’s not the most engaging skater, but she deservedly placed really well here.

4. Ye Lim Kim, KOR — 157.79 (55.11/102.68)

Coming into this competition, people were expecting a lot of Ye Lim. Her jump layout was crazy-difficult and she had been looking consistent, so she was a medal favorite here. But it began to unravel in her “Donde Voy” SP: she two-footed her 3Lz-3T, which was downgraded and given mostly -3s in GOE. Combined with her lack of strength in PCS relative to her competition, that was enough to get her off the podium after the short. Her FS was better, but still had some iffy landings and kept her off the podium in 4th. She kind of tripped (not sure how to explain it because I’ve never seen anything like it…) out of the 2Lo in her 3Lz-3Lo-2Lo, which was downgraded, her 3Lz-3T was underrotated, and she got an edge call on her 3F. And to top it all off, she didn’t seem to be connecting to her music at all (I’ll give her a pass because both pieces were very ill-suited for someone of her age and style, which I blame on the choreographer.) She has a lot of potential, but this was just not Ye Lim’s competition.

5. Emmi Peltonen, FIN — 150.00 (53.41/96.59)

Emmi Peltonen was a nice “discovery” at this event: I’d never seen her, but she is a gorgeous skater with gigantic jumps and I think she has a lot of potential. In her short program, she landed a massive 3T-3T and a great 2A but singled her 3Lo. I really enjoyed the program, which was very well-choreographed with a very convincing tangoey flair. Her StSq was great. The FS was also a lovely program, but three pops and a fall did her in. She badly needs consistency (she appears to be the latest in a long line of artistic Finnish headcases), but she could be one to watch for.

Honorable Mentions: 

6. Alexia Paganini, USA: her short program was gorgeous except for a doubled jump, but two falls in the FS kept her from finishing any higher.

7. Julie Froestcher (sorry for spelling), FRA: her reaction to her score was great. 🙂